Kafni Glacier

Difficulty
Difficulty
Moderate - Difficult
Duration
Duration
6 Days
Trek type
Trek type
Moderate with some steep uphill sections on parts of the trail. Paths are either laid with stones or dirt paths through forests and meadows.
Altitude
Max Altitude
12664 ft
Required Fitness
Base
Loharkhet
Best time to visit
Best time to visit
April-May and September – October.

The Kafni Glacier Trek lies is in the Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand. It is the source of the Kafni river, a tributary of the Pindar river which later joins the Ganges. The trek starts at Loharket, above the small mountain town of Bageshwar. From Loharkhet you climb up to Dhakuri pass from where you start to get a view of the magnificent Himalayan peaks including Nanda Khat and Maiktoli. You then descend into the Pindar river basin and walk along the greenish-blue waters with Nanda Devi East in your sights until you reach the point where the Kafni river merges into the Pindar. From here you follow the Kafni river, continuing northward and rounding the bend of the valley which makes a wide left turn. Your path is over the river’s boulder-strewn banks, through forests on the mountainside, and across expansive mountain meadows, hiking higher and higher towards the Kafni glacier. Finally, you reach an awesome amphitheater of snow covered mountains looming over the glacier itself and its huge forbidding blackish-gray snout. You sit here surrounded by the majestic mountains feeling like a small particle in a huge universe and everything feels right in the world.

About Author: Zohar

Profile: Zohar lives in the US and travels to India frequently. She likes to hike and climb and tries to go trekking in the Himalayas whenever she gets a chance. One day, she hopes to go mountaineering in these magnificent mountains.

The pictures in this account are taken by my friend and hiking partner Andrej Bogdanov.

Views of the magnificent Himalayan peaks

  • The Kafni glacier is in the Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand. It is the source of the Kafni river, a tributary of the Pindar river which later joins the Ganges.
  • The trek starts at Loharket, above the small mountain town of Bageshwar.
  • From Loharkhet you climb up to Dhakuri pass from where you start to get a view of the magnificent Himalayan peaks including Nanda Khat and Maiktoli.
  • You then descend into the Pindar river basin and walk along the greenish-blue waters with Nanda Devi East in your sights until you reach the point where the Kafni river merges into the Pindar.

Kafni Glacier Trek Guide

Day 0 – May 20, 2012[Delhi-Loharkhet (5775 ft), no hiking].

After a somewhat tension filled evening when we realized our train tickets would not be confirmed, we set off at midnight in a cab to Kathgodam. We reached Kathgodam at 7 am. At the train station there were many drivers willing to go further up. Most were willing to go only up to Bageshwar, but one gentleman told us that he will have us in Loharkhet in 8 hours, so off we went with him.

We reached Loharkhet at about 3.30 in the afternoon and found a room at the KMVN guest house. There is also a Forest rest house a few dozen meters away, but it was all booked. We ate a simple and delicious meal that night prepared by the caretaker at the KMVN. After bathing, we turned in early, planning on getting an early start the next day.

Day 1 – May 21, 2012 : Loharkhet (5775 ft) to Khati (7250 ft) via Dhakuri (8793 ft),19 km

We set out from Loharkhet at 5.50 am after a light breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Andrej cannot do without coffee, no matter how far away from civilization we are. We brought a little stove along with us for instant hot water. The first 8-9 km going up to Dhakuri pass is a steady walk uphill gaining altitude of about 3280 ft. The first half of this path is made of large rocks roughly placed together and required some careful stepping to avoid twisted ankles or hiking poles getting stuck in the gaps. We crossed a couple of small bridges over streams. The path is mostly on the mountainside with some forest cover. At about 8 in the morning we emerged from the forest about halfway to Dhakuri, and took our first long rest near an overlook.

We set out from Loharkhet at 5.50 am after a light breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Andrej cannot do without coffee, no matter how far away from civilization we are. We brought a little stove along with us for instant hot water. The first 8-9 km going up to Dhakuri pass is a steady walk uphill gaining altitude of about 3280 ft. The first half of this path is made of large rocks roughly placed together and required some careful stepping to avoid twisted ankles or hiking poles getting stuck in the gaps. We crossed a couple of small bridges over streams. The path is mostly on the mountainside with some forest cover. At about 8 in the morning we emerged from the forest about halfway to Dhakuri, and took our first long rest near an overlook.

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
Halfway to Dhakuri

From here, the trail climbs up through a series of wide open meadows strewn with small boulders. The scenery is high hills and honestly I was impatient to be out of it and start seeing snow and high mountains. Someone more reasonable than me would call it a pretty walk, and it runs alternately under shaded forest and exposed hillsides. We reached Dhakuri pass some time before 11. The place is a small saddle and strung about on a line are pieces of cloth as a religious offering near a small temple. From here it is about a 1 km walk down several switchbacks to Dhakuri camp which we reached at 11.15 am. Most excitingly, the whole way down, we saw a huge glittering snow covered mountain in the distance. Later I learnt that this was probably Nandakhat.

At Dhakuri there are a couple of tea and maggi stalls and at least 2 guest houses. We broke for a lunch of dal, rice and paratha which the caretaker of the guest house, Hayat Singh, prepared for us. As we rested clouds came in and by 12 nothing of the mountain was visible. After lunch we started for the village of Khati. The path is downhill for several kilometers and the trail is less well maintained, though it is clear and seems to be in heavy use by the villagers. On the way is Khatariya, the last motorable point. Leaving Khatariya, you round a valley and cross several bridges until a climb of a few kilometers before entering Wachum, a small settlement about 2 km before Khati. Annapurna guest house and Mountain View Hotel are two guest houses here if you want to stay outside Khati.

Kafni Glacier
Khati from a distance

 

 

Around 3.30 pm, still on the outskirts of Khati, I saw a sign for the Sangam guest house. We decided to stay here for the night. We unwound and unpacked and started preparing water for the next day. After coffee, Andrej decided to take a walk to the village which is a few hundred meters ahead. The view in the evening light is beautiful. We could see two big sets of mountains behind the hills. I watch the changing orange and purple light on the ice and snow with wonder and feel happy and grateful to be in this place.

In the evening after dark, we completed our water and iodine rituals, ate some dal, rice and potatoes and repacked for the next day. We hunkered down in our sleeping bags and I finished writing some notes before dropping off to sleep.

Day 2 – May 22, 2012 : Khati (7250 ft)to Khatia (9843 ft) via Dwali (8448 ft), 16 km

After a sleepless night because of some noisy neighbors, we set out before 6 am. Our plan was to get to Dwali and go on to Khatia if possible. Dwali is about 10 km away. A little more than half a kilometer from Khati, as we climbed the hill above the village, we saw a beautiful mountain to our left in the distance. On the right was the KMVN guest house located in a secluded clearing in the forest.

The path now ran very slightly downhill on the side of the mountain, with some forest cover. The Pindar river runs to the left, its pale blue foaming water running over grey boulders. After several kilometers, the forest opened up and we descended down to the banks of the river. We crossed a large field of boulders and stones and a short climb later, crossed over to the other bank. There is a tea stall on the crossing where a man told us it is 5 km to Dwali.

kaf-13

After this midway point, the trail climbed quite a bit through a shady forests where yellow golden leaves cover up the path. After perhaps 3-4 km, it moved out of the forest and ran on the flank of the mountain high above the river. Directly ahead there was a huge snow covered mountain that took my breath away. I think it is Nanda Devi East.

Kafni Glacier Trek
The Path up to Kafni

 

 

A little before noon we started seeing signs of our destination. A bridge crosses the meeting point of the Pindar and Kafni rivers and a small dwelling is perched high on the other bank of the river. One more hard clamber up the mountainside after crossing the bridge and we were at Dwali. Dwali is a collection of 3 or so huts and the KMVN guest house with three or four rooms. The view looks deep down into the gorge where the water rushes like a wild thing. Andrej did not want to stay at Dwali that night. He felt we should push on to Khatia, the next stop, another 5-6 km or so away.

The cook at the Dwali KMVN told us it is a climb most of the way up. We decided to leave many of our extra things at Dwali – so we gathered together about 3kg of things – extra clothes, my stove, our notebooks, Andrej’s book, and we kept only a single set of things we shared like soap. The caretaker Nandan Singh kindly agreed to keep our things until our return.

We had lunch – rice and dal spiced with a lot of chillies. Before starting we make an agreement with two shepherds who planned to take their sheep up to Khatia to graze later in the afternoon. They would accompany us from Khatia to the Kafni glacier itself the next morning. It seemed like the path to the foot of the glacier is not always clear and we decided to be cautious on the last leg up.41239506

I felt lighter with a lot of stuff gone from my pack but was still tired and had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I barely noticed the beautiful gorge of the Kafni, but Andrej stopped to take pictures on the way. The trail climbed up through forests and then opened out along the right bank of the river. Its clear and easy to follow although it goes over many boulders and stones where one must tread carefully.

A little more climbing and we saw a small shelter. I was hoping it was our destination and indeed it was the Gram Panchayat rest house at Khatia. It took us about 3 hours to get there and we were early enough to get a room. The temperature became noticeably cooler in the evening here. We were at about 9843 ft. now and had rounded a bend of the Kafni gorge. From around this bend we could see the peaks ranged all around the camp.

Kafni Glacier Trek
The Way to Khatia

 

Day 3 – May 23, 2012 : Khatia (9843 ft) – Kafni glacier (12664 ft)- Dwali (8448 ft.), 19 km

We set off after a quick breakfast of oatmeal and power bars a little after 5 am. The path was steadily uphill although the slope was gentler than the way from Dwali to Khatia. It was on the exposed mountainside without any forest cover. Bushy grass grows all around and further away there are huge meadows on either side.

 

We followed the right bank of the river, although for the most part, it was far below and not visible. Both banks rise up to huge snow covered mountains. After about an hour and a half of walking, we started to see the very top of Nanda Khat ahead.

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
The path to Kafni

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
A Glimpse of Nanda Kot

The path continued over several sections laid with rock. We rounded a bend and got the first complete view of the glacier and the surrounding mountains. Ahead there was a field of snow that had to be crossed which seeeds rather precarious. One bad slip and you would slide down a good way on the side of the mountain! I was certainly glad once I crossed that bit.

Just a little further from this point is the “zero point” of the Kafni glacier. The shepherds tell us it is possible to walk about a kilometer more on the moraine and snow. We follow them over a path that we probably wouldn’t have been able to find ourselves, although from time to time I see someone has placed cairns on the boulders. We walk over patches of snow and weave through piles of boulders with the glacier looming ahead.

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
On the way to Kafni Glacier

At about 8.30, we reached a big patch of snow that was just below the black snout of the glacier and stopped. This was the furthest we went. We stayed here for a good hour and a half taking in the majesty of the surroundings. In front of us was the glacier itself and above it tower Nanda Khat and another tall mountain whose name the shepherds can’t tell us.

On both sides of the gorge, we could see mountains covered with a thick layer of snow. We were at the source of the river. The water flowed beside us, close enough to touch, melting off from the glacier. In slight shock, I sat and tried to somehow take in the amazing beauty all around us. Time stood still.

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
Walking Over the Moraine

Reluctantly, at 10 we started our return journey. We’d been lucky to get to the glacier early as clouds started to come in, obscuring the views. We made our way back to Khatia and broke for lunch before continuing further down to Dwali. The descent to Dwali felt fairly steep in my tired state. We decided to spend the night here at the Dwali KMVN and take it easy the next day.

Kafni Glacier Trek
The Kafni Glacier and its snout of back ice

 

Day 4 – May 24, 2012 [Dwali (2575 m) – Wachum, 13 km

Finally, a day where we could wake up after 5 in the morning! We ate a leisurely breakfast and drank hot tea at the KMVN. We set off at the late hour of 10 or so back down towards Khati. We reached Khati in the afternoon, but decided to keep going further. Finally at about 3 in the afternoon we reached Wachum and decided to put up at the Mountain View hotel. The weather had turned hazy and cloudy, so there are no mountains to view and we content ourselves with the sight of a big hill in front of the hotel where the villagers grow some sort of leaves.

 

Kafni Glacier Trek
At Wachum

Day 5 – May 25, 2012 : Wachum – Dhakuri (8793 ft), 7 km

One benefit of staying in Wachum rather than Loharkhet was that we could make another late start today. We finished the short walk to Dhakuri that goes esssentially uphill with a few short descents in about 3 hours. We planned on staying at Dhakuri. The rooms were all full, so we rented a tent for the night. The weather remained hazy so we din’t have any good views. Andrej’s valiant Iphone finally ran out of batteries.

Day 6 – May 26, 2012 [Dhakuri (8793 ft) – Loharkhet (5774 ft), 10 km

We left early in the morning at around 5.30. We estimated it would take between 3 to 4 hours to get down to Loharkhet. We were told that that should be early enough to catch a jeep going back into Bageshwar. The way back was uneventful and we arrived in Loharkhet at around 9. It was already too late for the regular jeeps. We waited a while for someone to come up the mountain road and finally, around noon, succeeedd in getting a ride back into town.

How to get fit for the Kafni Glacier Trek

The Kafni Glacier Trek is classified as a trek of moderate difficult. You trek up to an altitude of over 12,664 feet. You have to make sure your lungs are strong for this.

Cardiovascular endurance
On the Kafni Glacier Trek, the trail has steep uphill sections. Hence, this requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday.  Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. Make sure you are able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.

Strength


This is another area you should work on. There is a lot of trekking distance that you will cover in high altitude carrying your backpacks.  You have to walk on uneven terrain during the trek. It could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.

Flexibility
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.

Working out indoors


If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.

What to take on the Kafni Glacier trek

Bare necessities

  1. Trekking shoes: The trek distance is long and you will have to walk for long distances which need you to have comfortable trekking shoes.  You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes
  2. Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.

The Miyar Valley Dun trek happens round the year except for monsoons so make sure your have the proper clothing as per the season demands so you can keep yourself protected during the trek.

Clothes

  1.  Three (Five in Winter) Warm Layers: You will be trekking and camping at high altitudes. So make sure you have the apt clothes for the climatic conditions. It will be cold at the higher altitudes so make sure you have at least three layers of warm clothes to protect yourself.
  2. Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair. 
  3. Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
  4. Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.

Accessories

  1. Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow in Har Ki Dun Valley or from Kalkatiyadhaar (depending on the season you are going in), so carry a pair of sunglasses. 
  2. SuncapThe sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
  3. Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
  4. Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
  5. Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
  6. Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  7. Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.

Others

  1. Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks. 
  2. Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
  3. Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. 
  4. Two water bottles: 1 litre each
  5. Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

Mandatory Personal Medical Kit 

  1. Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
  2. Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
  3. Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
  4. Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
  5. Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
  6. Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
  7. Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
  8. Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
  9. Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  10. Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  11. Gauze – 1 small roll
  12. Band aid – 10 strips
  13. Cotton – 1 small roll
  14. ORS – 10 packets
  15. Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  16. Moov spray (aches, & sprains)

Mandatory Documents

Please carry the below documents. Document two and three need to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp. 
  • Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
  • Medical Certificate and Disclaimer (to be filled by the trekker) – Download PDF
  • Medical certificate (to be filled by a doctor) – Download PDF

Complete trek guide

Last updated: January - 2017

 Complete trek guide